More reports on: Environment

''Doomsday Clock'' minute hand to move again?

20 January 2015

Based on the twin threat perceptions of climate change and nuclear tensions, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will announce on 22 January the recent decision of its BAS Science and Security Board including 18 Nobel laureates as to whether or not the minute hand of the historic ''Doomsday Clock'' will be adjusted.

The Doomsday Clock is a universally-recognised symbolic clock face, representing a countdown to possible political-related global catastrophe (nuclear war or climate change) and is regarded as an indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences..

Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists subsequently created the Doomsday Clock in 1947 using  the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero), to convey threats to humanity and the planet.

The decision to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made by the Bulletin's board of directors in consultation with its board of sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.

The closer they set the Clock to midnight, the closer the scientists believe the world is to global disaster.

The last time the Doomsday Clock minute hand moved was in January 2012, when it was pushed ahead one minute from six to five minutes before midnight. Climate change and increasing concerns about nuclear weapons are the main factors influencing the decision about any additional adjustment that may be made to the Doomsday Clock.

Originally, the Clock, which hangs on a wall in a Bulletin's office in the University of Chicago, was an analogy for the threat of global nuclear war. Since 2007 it has also reflected climate change and new developments in the life sciences and technology that could inflict irrevocable harm to humanity.

Eugene Rabinowitch, co-founder of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, once said, "The Bulletin's clock is not a gauge to register the ups and downs of the international power struggle; it is intended to reflect basic changes in the level of continuous danger in which mankind lives in the nuclear age.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will host a live international news conference at 11 a.m. EST/1600 GMT (9:30 pm in India) on 22 January 2015 to to announce the  decision whether or not the minute hand will be adjusted.

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